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Intimate contact seems to affect babies' gene expression

Intimate contact seems to affect babies' gene expression


Hugging babies doesn't just make them feel warm, comfortable, and loved, a 2017 study showed that this behavior can actually affect babies at the molecular level, and that this effect can last for years. This study shows that babies who are held less often in their early childhood and experience more pain will eventually change the molecular processes that affect gene expression.

A team from the University of British Columbia in Canada emphasized that the research is still in its infancy and it is unclear exactly what caused the change. But this can provide scientists with some useful insights into how contact behaviors such as hugs affect the epigenome.

In this study, parents of 94 babies were asked to record their touching and hugging habits within five weeks of their birth, as well as their sleeping and crying behaviors. Four and a half years later, the children's DNA samples were used to analyze a biochemical modification called DNA methylation. This is an epigenetic mechanism in which parts of the chromosome are marked by carbon and hydrogen molecules, which alter the function of genes and affect their expression.

Researchers found that children with higher and lower exposures had differences in DNA methylation at five specific DNA loci, two of which were within genes: one related to the immune system and one related to metabolism System related. In addition, children with lower frequency of exposure have lower than expected genetic age, biological ageing of blood and tissues. "For children, we think slower epigenetic aging may be disadvantageous," said researcher Michael Cobo.

In fact, a similar finding was made in a 2013 study that looked at how much care and attention pups received as a child. In the past, the gap between epigenetic age and actual age was linked to health issues, but it is too early to draw such conclusions: scientists readily acknowledge that they don't yet know how this will affect children's future lives.

In this study, although only less than 100 babies were studied, it was found that close contact and hugs did indeed change the genetic level of the body to some extent. Of course, intimate contact is beneficial to us in all aspects, which is recognized, but this is the first time that it has been studied how it changes the epigenetics of human infants.

One of the researchers, Sara Moore, said: "We want to know if these children's" biological immaturity "will affect their health, especially their mental health, and we plan to follow up on this. If further research is needed This confirms this initial finding, which shows that physical contact is important for babies. "

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